Nigerian Unions Threaten Shutdown Over Fuel-Price Increase

  • Federations say they’ll start indefinite strike by May 18
  • President Buhari accused of betraying electoral promises

Nigeria’s two main union federations on Saturday threatened an indefinite strike to shut down offices and businesses by May 18 if previous gasoline prices aren’t restored after rejecting a government decision to raise them.

“All sectors are going to be negatively affected by this mindless increase,” the Nigeria Labour Congress, which groups blue-collar unions, and the Trade Union Congress, for managerial employees, said in a joint statement in the capital, Abuja. “It’s unacceptable, it’s rejected.”

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on May 11 increased gasoline prices by 67 percent. The move was necessary to attract private importers, who will be able to recover their costs and help end fuel shortages that have persisted for months in the OPEC-member country, the government said.

Nigeria relies on fuel imports to meet more than 70 percent of national supply. Four state-owned refineries with a capacity for 445,000 barrels of crude per day produce only a fraction of that because of poor maintenance and mismanagement.

The unions accused Buhari, who won elections last year pledging not to increase the price of fuel, of “betrayal of electoral promises” through his “sudden and dangerous policy somersault.”

When Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, attempted to raise fuel prices and end subsidies in 2012, he was faced with a week of strikes and protests by the unions and civic groups until he partially reinstated them.

What was a united front then appeared to have cracked Friday when two oil-sector unions expressed understanding for Buhari’s decision to increase fuel prices. 

Nupeng, which is affiliated with NLC, and Pengassan, a member of TUC, instead issued a 14-day notice to the government to start a different strike by May 28 to protest job losses in joint ventures run by the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. and international energy companies.

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